‘Rusted Root’ pastry shop sprouts in Rushmere

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Haley Powell loves plants and baking.

Her newest business venture, The Rusted Root, combines both.

Powell opened the combination pastry shop and plant store last November in an outbuilding next to the former Barlow’s Country Store off Old Stage Highway in Rushmere, an unincorporated village seven miles north of Smithfield at the Isle of Wight-Surry county border.

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Powell hopes to fill a void in the census-designated place that’s home to just over 1,100 residents, but few businesses.

“There’s nothing else here to eat, nothing else like where you’re able to go in and get food to go and there’s not a lot of plant stores around either,” Powell said.

Powell arrives early each morning from her home in Windsor to bake the day’s offerings from scratch using her own recipes.

In addition to bagels and pastries, The Rusted Root offers ready-to-go sandwiches, salads, lattes and limeades. Among her best-sellers is “The Firecracker,” a cheddar jalapeño bagel sandwich with ham, bacon, lettuce, mayonnaise and banana peppers. Her chicken and pasta salads and BLTs on toasted sourdough bread are also popular.

So far, “we’ve done really really well,” Powell said. “We have a bunch of regulars. They come in every week.”

Powell, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of Virginia in Norfolk in 2019, said she first learned to bake around age 10 or 11 and “really got into it” by age 12. When she lived in North Carolina seven years ago she started selling homemade cinnamon rolls out of her house and found herself selling 200 to 250 pans per month. Her cinnamon rolls are now among the baked goods offered daily at The Rusted Root.

Powell said she stumbled upon the opportunity to rent the semi-historic storefront by meeting and talking with its owner, who was one of her regular customers at The Cockeyed Rooster where she used to waitress.

“It was a smaller building so it was a good starting point,” Powell said.

She and her partner, Lucy Lacore, did much of the renovations themselves, including new paint, wallpaper and lighting.

Before they moved in, the building had super-bright lights inside and was painted lime green and orange.

“Definitely not the vibe we were going for,” Powell said.

Powell credits a friend and her grandmother, a Western Tidewater Master Gardener, with getting her into plants, and her mother with coining the name “Rusted Root.” The Rusted Root offers basic houseplants like Monstera, also known as the Swiss cheese plant for its hole-filled leaves, to more expensive and rare varieties like the Philodendron Ring of Fire, named for its mixed green, red and orange foliage.